October 23, 2014

TV News | CITF announces The Book of Negroes North American premiere for 2014 festival

The Canadian International Television Festival quietly announced (as in, first mentioned on Twitter) the North American premiere of CBC/BET event mini-series The Book of Negroes on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, following TBoN’s world premiere at MIPCOM in Cannes, France. Announced attendees include actors Cuba Gooding Jr., Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent, Allan Hawco, and Louis Gossett Jr., director Clement Virgo, executive producer Damon D’Oliveira, and The Book of Negroes author Lawrence Hill. A panel discussion with aforementioned TBoN talents follows the screening.

The second Canadian International Television Festival runs from November 14 to 23, 2014, in a format change from the initial three-day festival. Although there is no mention of where The Book of Negroes screens, based on last year’s events and this press release, The Book of Negroes’ premiere likely screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Ticket information follows in the weeks leading up to CITF.

Shows previously screened at CITF before their Canadian television debuts include Bravo’s English adaptation of 19-2, and CTV sitcom Spun Out. This is the first CBC show to screen at the Canadian International Television Festival before its debut, although the 19-2 premiere was a reworked version of the original CBC pilot.


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October 15, 2014

Article | Why Strange Empire doesn’t need to “save the CBC”

With Strange Empire, Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik’s new CBC Television show, two narratives dominate the show’s current publicity – the woman-oriented western angle, and the drama that’s “more substantial” than CBC’s other homegrown dramatic fare. With this in mind, Strange Empire’s debut earned 319,000 viewers on October 6, 2014. Its second episode earned 312,000 viewers on October 13, 2014. That’s not a good start for the latest show that’s allegedly too “un-CBC” for CBC.

Even though I don’t pay attention to promotion as much as I used to, I do notice the lack of putting Finstad-Knizhnik’s name upfront in the promotion to Strange Empire, trailer-wise. CBC has other avenues in which to publicize Finstad-Knizhnik’s involvement with Strange Empire, but not in the commercials and trailers themselves. Durham County – which Finstad-Knizhnik co-created – is as much about suburban decay, and a character study about people trying to deal with their personal issues, as it is a crime drama. Similarly, Strange Empire is more complex than “women in a late-1860s Western Canada bordertown”, which at least this Dork Shelf piece understands. Perhaps CBC wants the television audience to focus on the show’s concept, and not the creator’s previous achievements. I don’t know.

If Durham County had a unique selling point in first run, it was Hugh Dillon’s role as homicide detective Mike Sweeney. Dillon is the lead singer for The Headstones, and a decent actor. He became a marketable name in Canadian television through Durham County and CTV’s Flashpoint. By comparison, CBC Revenue Group first sells Strange Empire on the merits of Cara Gee, Melissa Farman, and Tattiawna Jones, before mentioning Finstad-Knizhnik. While Jones is a familiar face on Canadian television, and Gee comes off a Canadian Screen Award nomination for 2013 film Empire of Dirt, it is Finstad-Knizhnik with the highest television profile, as Durham County lasted three seasons on The Movie Network and HBO Canada, and aired in a second window on Global. Durham County also had a United States run on minor program service Ion.

The media narrative of Strange Empire as the latest show too “un-CBC” for CBC baffles me. CBC Television sometimes has a show or two a season that doesn’t fit neatly with the majority of its schedule – jPod, Wild Roses, What It’s Like Being Alone, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, Being Erica. The main problem with the “un-CBC” narrative is that it reduces CBC programming to an us-vs.-them scenario, dovetailing into one of CBC’s persistent false binaries – either the CBC goes completely highbrow/news-oriented/niche etc. and stops competing with private program services like CTV, CTV Two, Global, and City, or it reaches for that mass audience and stops being “special”. In reality, the failure of one of CBC’s first-season shows is seldom anything more than that, whether the show is “edgy” or not. If anything is a punch in the face to CBC this season, it’s the loss of Hockey Night in Canada’s advertising revenue, which directly affects CBC long-term.

Strange Empire is an experiment for CBC in 2014-15. My worry with Strange Empire is that it wasn’t initially promoted well enough to the audience of Durham County fans that might appreciate it. Granted, Strange Empire is a much harder sell than new seasons of a proven commodity like Murdoch Mysteries and The Rick Mercer Report. In addition, Strange Empire competes against City’s Scorpion, CTV’s Forever, CTV Two’s The Voice, and Global’s Sleepy Hollow. Monday at 9:00 PM is a tough time-slot, with two new American imports, and two well-established American imports. One thing that might help Strange Empire, assuming CBC doesn’t move the show, is if ABC cancels Forever before it finishes its first season.

CBC Television is not so flimsy that the poor initial performance of one of its edgier dramas is enough to call CBC’s entire 2014-15 primetime schedule into question. It’s not like CBC hasn’t aired “non-CBC” shows before; aside from Being Erica (which enjoyed a respectable four-season run, despite perpetual on-the-bubble CBC ratings), the odder fits are forgotten about, along with “safer” bets like Men with Brooms and The Debaters. Broadcast television is its own strange empire.

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August 30, 2014

TV News | Fall 2014 premieres for APTN, Teletoon, Family Channel Canadian series

Gloryosky readers might wonder why I list the three television services like this. Simply put, these are three historical scripted-series heavyweights. APTN’s output alone makes the major non-CBC program services/networks look paltry.


Teletoon (English)
Chop Chop Ninja (shorts): November 2014, time TBD (debut)
Dr. Dimensionpants: November 2014, time TBD (debut)
Total Drama: Pahkitew Island: September 4, 7:30 PM ET/PT (second half of fifth season)

Existing Teletoon shows with new episodes for fall 2014 include Johnny Test, The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Camp Lakebottom, Totally Spies!, and Packages From Planet X. In an odd departure from the Corus/Astral era, Corus-owned Teletoon doesn’t list when the new seasons premiere, with the exception of the latest Total Drama installment.


APTN (English)
Amy’s Mythic Mornings: September 6, 9:00 AM ET [HD, East]/9:00 AM CT [North]/9:00 AM MT [West] (debut)
Blackstone: November 11, 10:00 PM ET [HD, East]/10:00 PM MT [West]; November 16, 10:00 PM CT [North] (fourth season)
Cashing In: November 18, 8:00 PM ET [HD, East]/8:00 PM MT [West]; November 23, 8:00 PM CT [North] (fourth season)
Catch the Dream: September 4, 8:30 PM ET [HD, East]/8:30 PM MT [West] (debut)
Mohawk Girls: November 25, 9:00 PM ET [HD, East]/9:00 PM CT [North]/9:00 PM MT [West] (debut)
Native Planet: September 3, 7:00 PM ET [HD, East]/8:00 PM CT [North]/7:00 PM MT [West] (debut)
Warrior Games: September 6, 4:30 PM ET [HD, East]/4:30 PM CT [North]/4:30 PM MT [West] (debut)

APTN (Inuktitut)
Qanurli: September 1, 7:00 PM CT (fourth season)
Takuginai: September 7, 8:30 AM CT (fourteenth season)

Cashing In will air two episodes on APTN North for its fourth-season premiere.

Mohawk Girls’ normal time on APTN North is Sunday, 9:00 PM CT; the time listed is for the two-episode series premiere.

Native Planet will only be shown on APTN North in Cree.


Family Channel
The Next Step: September 12, 7:30 PM ET (second half of second season)

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August 29, 2014

DVD News | Cybersix complete series DVD set out now through Discotek Media

Cybersix aired on Teletoon from 1999-2000, based on the more violent/sexually explicit Argentine comic book. The series was a Canada/Japan co-production between two Vancouver, British Columbia studios (Network of Animation, Ocean Productions), and Tokyo Movie Shinsha. In the United States of America, Cybersix aired on Fox Kids in fall 2000.

Cybersix’s main character is Cyber-6 (Cathy Weseluck), an artificial human created by former Nazi/Schutzstaffel member Dr. Von Reichter (Terry Klassen). Cyber-6 is the last fully-intact, surviving member of the Cyber series, which Von Reichter wants to destroy due to the Cyber series’ possession of free will. The Nazism is toned down in the animated series, but not fully eliminated.

During the series’ run, Cyber-6 fights Von Reichter’s monsters in the city of Meridiana. The monsters include Fixed Ideas (big green humanoid mooks), Technos (normal-seeming artificial humans), and Types (like Technos, but teenaged and more monstrous). Cyber-6 survives by taking their “Sustenance” – essentially, a way to suggest vampirism without being blatant about it. José (Alex Doduk), Von Reichter’s “son”/clone, is the show’s main on-screen antagonist, carrying out his “father’s” orders. Cyber-6 is helped by Data-7, a panther with the brain of Cyber-6’s “brother” Cyber-29.

By day, Cyber-6 assumes the identity of teacher Adrian Seidelman. Biology teacher/big eater Lucas Amato (Michael Dobson) is the designated Lois Lane, capable of holding his own against normal people, but not the villains Cybersix deals with. Julian (Andrew Francis) is a street kid who tries to help Cybersix at times – emphasis on tries. Lori Anderson (Janyse Jaud) is one of Seidelman’s students. Lori has a crush on Seidelman, and is the main focus of the fifth episode, “Lori is Missing”.

Cybersix is an atypical animated series, due to its being Japanese animation with the Cybersix comics’ European look. The theme song (see below) is excellent; Cybersix’s scores aren’t as good, and the show mostly goes with a monster-of-the-week format. Cybersix’s main strengths are its production values, character designs, and gender flip of the Clark Kent/Superman dynamic. Cybersix is a reminder of the early, more freewheeling days of Teletoon.

Discotek Media released this complete series DVD set August 26, 2014; it retails for USD$34.95 at its website. Extras include commentary on the first and final episodes, by Cathy Weseluck and Discotek Media graphic artist/Cybersix fan Brady Hartel. The set only includes the English dub, in its original 1.33:1 aspect radio.

I can’t complain about this set. In today’s Canadian TV-on-DVD world, the fact this title is out at all after fifteen years is a minor miracle. Frankly, I think Cybersix is Teletoon’s best-ever original series. I don’t claim Cybersix is perfect, as the monster-of-the-week format limits it more than anything. I still prefer Cybersix for adapting seemingly questionable source material, and adapting it well. Teletoon never took as big a chance as with Cybersix; I doubt it will again.

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August 28, 2014

Article | The ones behind the One in Entertainment One

The problem with proclaiming one company the “last great independent” in its category is that the next one might be close behind, ready to rabbit punch. In this case, Canadian television ten years ago could not have seen the growth of Entertainment One, who acquired Force Four Entertainment on August 28, 2014. Those who watch Saving Hope, Haven, Bitten, Call Me Fitz and/or Rookie Blue watch an eOne show. eOne is a major home entertainment company in Canada, possibly the independent in this country.

I will update this article to correct errors, and as further acquisitions happen. While I’m ambivalent about eOne – I respect its television division, hate its aggressive acquisition strategy, and lament that it’s the only home entertainment company as active as it is in the Canadian TV-on-DVD market – I think it’s important to chart eOne’s growth. Given its summer 2014 run obtaining a film/home entertainment distributor and two production companies, eOne’s been on a tear lately.

I realize the company used E1 as shorthand, before adopting the current eOne branding. I call the company eOne for convenience.

For readers confused by the article’s title, I paraphrase Paul Heyman’s current catchphrase; eOne has distributed WWE Home Video titles for years. Those WWE Home Video titles made me jump to my feet, took my breath away, and left me in amazement!


1973: Vito Ierullo and Don Ierullo found Records on Wheels Limited, with a focus on retail sales of recorded music (initially from a bus, hence the name). By the late 1970s, ROW Limited/ROW Entertainment expands into music distribution, and expands into home entertainment by the 1980s/1990s.

2001(?): ROW Entertainment acquires CD Plus’ assets. The CD Plus site still does business, as Play Stop. Darren Throop comes to ROW Entertainment from CD Plus; he is eOne’s current chief executive officer.

November 2003: ROW Entertainment first lists on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as ROW Entertainment Income Fund.

August 1, 2004: ROW Entertainment acquires Video One Canada Limited, a home entertainment distributor, from Standard Broadcasting Corporation Limited. The deal is worth CAD$72.4 million.

May 17, 2005: ROW Entertainment acquires KOCH Entertainment, a music and home entertainment distributor, for USD$80 million. By this time, ROW Entertainment rebrands as Entertainment One.

May 31, 2005: Entertainment One buys the assets of wholesaler Reel Choice Video Limited for CAD$1.9 million.

March 29, 2007: London, United Kingdom firm Marwyn Investment Management LLP takes over Entertainment One for CAD$188 million. The deal includes CAD$68 million in assumed debt. As a result of the takeover, Entertainment One gains a listing on London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market, and loses its listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

June 14, 2007: Entertainment One acquires UK television/home entertainment distributor Contender Limited, for GBP£49.4 million.

August 20, 2007: Entertainment One acquires Seville Entertainment Inc., a theatrical, television and home entertainment distributor/international sales agent. The Seville name is eventually retired in favour of eOne Films.

September 20, 2007: Entertainment One signs a multi-territory (i.e., Canada and the United Kingdom) all-rights agreement with Summit Entertainment. Why is this important? Three words: the Twilight saga. Summit is now a subsidiary of Lionsgate; Lionsgate is itself a former Canadian company.

September 24, 2008: For CAD$51.5 million, Entertainment One acquires film/television production companies Barna-Alper Productions Inc. and Blueprint Entertainment Corporation, and international film/television distributor and international sales agent Oasis Pictures Inc. The deals also include Maximum Film Distribution Inc. and Maximum Film International Inc., which acquired Canadian rights for international films.

For Canadian television, this is the most important move. It builds the backbone of eOne’s television production, distribution and sales arm. By 2009, Barna-Alper, Blueprint, and Oasis fold into eOne Television.

September 29, 2008: Entertainment One attempts a reverse takeover of DHX Media, in a CAD$68 million deal. The intention of the reverse takeover is to restore eOne’s spot on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as well as exploit DHX Media’s back catalog. The deal falls through on December 12, 2008, due to DHX Media’s share price losing almost half its value in the ensuing two and a half months.

April 12, 2011: Entertainment One purchases Australia company Hopscotch Group’s distribution and home entertainment divisions for GBP£12.9 million.

November 2, 2011: Entertainment One agrees to take over Vivendi Entertainment’s Canadian home entertainment distribution business; the takeover goes into effect January 1, 2012.

January 8, 2013: Entertainment One acquires the assets of Alliance Films Holdings Inc. for CAD$225 million. Alliance Films produced and distributed films; it was also a major Canadian home entertainment distributor. Alliance Films also held Canadian rights to select television content produced by predecessor company Alliance Atlantis.

March 26, 2014: Seville International reactivates as Entertainment One’s independent/arthouse film distribution and international sales division.

June 2, 2014: Entertainment One acquires Phase 4 Films, a film and home entertainment distributor. Phase 4 Films also develops television programs with Take 5 Productions. The Phase 4 Films deal includes children’s home entertainment subsidiary Kaboom! Entertainment. Terms of the deal are not yet disclosed.

July 17, 2014: Entertainment One acquires Paperny Entertainment, the film/television production company behind Food Network Canada’s Chopped Canada, for CAD$29 million.

August 28, 2014: Entertainment One acquires Force Four Entertainment, the film/television production company behind City’s Seed and The Bachelor Canada, and National Geographic Channel’s Border Security: Canada’s Front Line. Terms of the deal are not yet disclosed.

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August 26, 2014

TV/Streaming News | Shaw and Rogers reveal Shomi VOD platform

Shomi, a Rogers Communications/Shaw Communications joint venture, was formally announced by the two companies in an August 26, 2014 media release. The subscription video-on-demand service is currently in beta launch for Rogers and Shaw Internet/television customers on tablet, mobile, and online platforms, as well as Xbox 360 and set top boxes. It is Rogers’ and Shaw’s first major attempt to compete with Netflix, and costs $8.99 CDN a month; it is currently not available as a standalone product. Shomi is available starting November 2014.

The service initially offers 340 television series, 11,000 hours of television content, and 1200 films at launch, for a total of 14,000 “episodes and titles” (Shomi’s terminology). No original content is initially planned for the service, as Shomi currently focuses on library content and “first-window exclusives” of shows Shaw Media and Rogers Media currently control digital distribution rights to. Shomi is officially in beta for six months to a year.

Shomi uses the You.i engine from You.i Labs. You.i Labs was founded in 2008, and is based in Ottawa, Ontario.

Bell Canada Enterprises and Cineplex Odeon Corporation are not on board with the Shomi venture, as was originally planned. According to Greg O’Brien of CARTT.ca, Bell plans its own subscription video-on-demand service for January 2015 due to it not liking the content rights terms Rogers signed for Shomi; Cineplex left the Shomi venture due to the service only being available as an add-on for existing Internet/television customers.

Rogers Media president Keith Pelley mentioned at the Shomi media event that “quite a few titles” might come from CBC; CBC is not officially onboard with Shomi.

The Shomi joint venture launches as a standalone entity, with its own management structure.

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August 25, 2014

TV News | Fall 2014 premiere dates for CBC’s Canadian series

From an August 25, 2014 media release. All times are in PT/MT/CT/ET/AT, half an hour later NT.

Ascension: November 25, 9:00 PM (debut)
Canada’s Smartest Person: September 28, 8:00 PM (second season; first season aired winter 2012)
Doc Zone: October 9, 9:00 PM
Dragons’ Den: October 15, 8:00 PM (ninth season)
Heartland: September 28, 7:00 PM (eighth season)
Hockey Night in Canada: October 11, game 7:00 ET to conclusion (sixty-first television season)
Marketplace: October 17, 8:00 PM (forty-second season)
Murdoch Mysteries: October 6, 8:00 PM (eighth season)
Republic of Doyle: October 15, 9:00 PM (sixth and final season)
Steven and Chris: September 22, 2:00 PM (eighth season)
Strange Empire: October 6, 9:00 PM (debut)
the fifth estate: October 24, 9:00 PM (fortieth season)
The Nature of Things: October 9, 8:00 PM (fifty-fourth season)
The Rick Mercer Report: October 7, 8:00 PM (twelfth season)
This Hour Has 22 Minutes: October 7, 8:30 PM (twenty-second season)

Although Hockey Night in Canada is back for its sixty-first season on CBC, Rogers Media currently controls the property. HNiC is not mentioned in CBC’s official press release, nor on its fall schedule promotional website.

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TV News | Lost Girl ends run after 77 episodes

Lost Girl, the Prodigy Pictures series starring Anna Silk as a succubus who tries to forge her own path in a mortal’s world, announced its conclusion in an August 25, 2014 Shaw Media press release, as well as a video from the official Showcase YouTube account (see below). Lost Girl winds down with a sixteen-episode split season. The show debuted on Showcase September 12, 2010. In the United States of America, Lost Girl debuted January 16, 2012, on Syfy.

The first eight episodes of Lost Girl’s fifth season air on Showcase starting December 7, 2014, at 9:00 PM ET/PT. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Etan Vlessing, the second half of the fifth season will air in fall 2015, although there is no indication that the fall 2015 run counts as a “sixth” season. Vlessing also confirms that Lost Girl will wrap internationally.

August 2014 is a painful month for Canadian television. Lost Girl’s announced conclusion marks the fourth end for a high-profile scripted Canadian series after The Listener, Working the Engels, and Seed. With Continuum’s future still undecided by Shaw Media – to the extent that Continuum show creator Simon Barry publicly wonders when a decision will be announced – there might be more cancellations in Canadian scripted television before the month bows out.

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